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Ask Questions Like a Coach To Increase Employee Engagement


Effective Questions Can Increase Employee Engagement

More and more organizations recognize the impact of coaching on employees and their leaders to help them deliver extraordinary results. Through a series of sharply focused questions, coaches help others identify opportunities and potential they might never have realized otherwise.

Engaging external coaches has become more prevalent to help leaders achieve more innovative actions and stronger results. In addition, now organizations know the impact of coaching can be intensified by developing leaders to adopt coaching skills in their roles.While various coaching methodologies share several foundational components, the most common thread is the essential skill of asking good discovery questions. Coaches ask insightful questions, ones that may never have been considered otherwise.

This ability keeps coaching recipients engaged in the conversation, instead of simply receiving a solution to the problem from their leader. Coaches provide a sounding board and a listening ear to brainstorm solutions and barriers so the coachee can address their own challenges and problems.

What is the anatomy of a good question?

There are two basic kinds of questions: open-ended questions and closed-ended questions.

Open-ended questions take more than one word or phrase to answer. They require more thought, explanation, and time than a simple “yes” or “no.” These questions ask the employee or coachee to reflect and come up with his or her own ideas, instead of relying on a manager to know the answer to every question.

Some examples of open-ended questions:

  • What were the factors that led to this problem?
  • What are your thoughts on how to best solve this challenge?
  • What outcomes are you looking for that point to success?
  • What might get in the way of achieving those actions you have identified?

Closed-ended questions are the opposite. They are short, sweet, to-the-point questions that don’t require a lot of thought or explanation. Often, they can be answered with just a word or two.

Some examples of closed-ended questions:

  • Did you finish that report?
  • Who was in the meeting?
  • When did the client stop by?
  • Did you try my suggestion?

At the heart of coaching is the ability to guide others to their own solution to the problems they face, instead of telling them what to do or having another solve their problems. When leader-coaches are helping an employee address a problem-solving moment, open-ended discovery questions are the best way to guide, rather than telling or asking a closed question. Employees will notice that instead of providing the answer, the coach has trusted them to solve the problem in their own way.

As a leader, each time an employee comes to you with a question or problem, you can enable him or her to create and own the solution, engaging him or her further into the work. Asking good, open-ended questions to get there is the foundational skill to being a good coach! Creating a culture of coaching can help organizations experience these benefits by training managers to have a "coach-approach." 

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

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Linda Dausend

Linda Dausend CPLP, is a senior consultant at FlashPoint. Linda collaborates with clients to unlock the power of great leaders within their organizations.